King return a 'massive boost' as Laois eye redemption
Things didn't go to plan for Laois in last year's Joe McDonagh Cup as they flirted with relegation to hurling's third tier and skipper Paddy Purcell is eager to right some wrongs this time around.
Having started the competition as favourites to earn their place into the Liam MacCarthy Cup, the O'Moore men had to rely on other results going their way in the final round to avoid a relegation play-off.
Kilkenny legend Eddie Brennan has taken the reins from Eamonn Kelly since then and after reaching the quarter-finals of the league - albeit shipping a heavy defeat to All-Ireland champions Limerick - Purcell is full of optimism.
Much of that confidence stems from the return of last year's captain Ross King - a Rathdowney-Errill clubmate of Purcell - after initially opting out of the squad having received a nasty facial injury in last year's controversial Laois SHC final defeat to Camross.
Purcell feels they are "in better shape this year" with "more buy-in" from players and King's return to the fold is just what they needed ahead of tomorrow's McDonagh Cup opener against Offaly.
"It (the incident) was something that we never actually talked about because it's nothing got to do with Laois really, it was between two clubs. I got on with it and all the Camross boys got on with it, there was no bad blood," Purcell said.
"Ross just didn't feel it so we said we'd give him time. We gave him maybe until before the league and he still wasn't feeling the grá to come back in. We said we'd try him again before the league and thankfully it worked out.
"He's another talker in the dressing room in a very young squad so it's a massive boost. It wasn't looking like he was going to be coming back and then he was hurling with the club there and getting the love back for it so we approached him and he was delighted to be called in.
"He's a great boost for the panel and he's flying it in training, he's the best forward we have in Laois anyway, and if not in this competition, so you might see him at some stage."
With Purcell and King named to operate together in attack, Laois will be a formidable proposition for neighbours Offaly, a "huge game" which could determine either side's fate quite early as this Laois side eye a final appearance in Croke Park.
"If you beat Offaly, you're also ahead of them on head-to-head which is massive, you're one step ahead whereas if you lose a game it's harder to go to training on Tuesday night," Purcell outlined.
"This group of players has never played in Croke Park so that's a massive incentive. It's another goal of mine and the team.
"Everyone is enjoying themselves. There's no special formula from Eddie but everything he does is based around work-rate, we're buying into that and we'll see where it takes us."
LAOIS - E Rowland; J Phelan, M Whelan, D Hartnett; L Cleere, R Mullaney, P Delaney; J Kelly, J Lennon; C Dwyer, W Dunphy, P Purcell; M Kavanagh, E Lyons, R King